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Mother of hospitalized 5-year-old says her decision not to get vaccinated was ‘big mistake’

A Regina mother says she’s grappling with regret over not getting vaccinated sooner after her five-year-old son ended up in the hospital with COVID-19.

“If you’re unsure about getting vaccinated, you should really think twice about it, because this virus is very real,” said 25-year-old Janis Bennett. 

“And I didn’t think it would get me, because I did my part in sanitizing, keeping safe, social distancing and not going out when I don’t need to go out.”

She wasn’t sure which vaccine to get, due to high blood pressure and other health concerns. It was a delay that she said turned out to be a “big mistake.”

Earlier this month, Bennett developed what she thought was a sinus infection. She was low on energy and just wanted to lie in bed, but then she lost her sense of smell as well. 

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, she woke to find her normally active, playful son, Maverick, in a very sick state.

Before he was hospitalized with COVID-19 last month, Bennett says her son was active and playful. (Submitted by Janis Bennett)

‘It broke my heart’

“He wasn’t really responding to me. He went to the bathroom, he didn’t want to eat.” 

Bennett called 911, and when emergency workers arrived, they put her son on an IV. 

The pair were taken to the emergency room, where they tested positive for COVID-19.

Bennett said her son looked lethargic, and his puffy eyes leaked a discharge. He also needed a chest X-ray and an echocardiogram.

If you’re unsure about getting vaccinated, you should really think twice about it, because this virus is very real.– Janis Bennett

“He got so sick to the point he didn’t want to eat anything, he didn’t want to be touched, he couldn’t move as well as he normally would,” she said. 

“It broke my heart to see him that way.”

While both Bennett and her son were discharged on Sept. 28, she said he continues to have lingering symptoms and will have to continue taking aspirin to reduce his risk of a blood clot or a stroke, at least until he sees a cardiologist in November to be assessed for heart damage. 

As of Sept. 30, there were three children under the age of 12 in hospitals in Saskatchewan, one of them in the intensive care unit (ICU), according to the Ministry of Health. The ministry also says it is working toward including hospitalization figures by age and vaccination status in its daily dashboard reporting. 

Kids and COVID-19 risks

The Canadian Paediatric Society recently released a year-long study looking at all pediatric cases of COVID-19 in hospitals and ICUs. 

That study found that in the first three waves of the pandemic, children and youth fared better than adults and were at less risk of severe disease or death. 

However, Dr. Charlotte Moore Hepburn, one of the lead investigators in the study, says pediatricians don’t want to underplay the risk of COVID-19 to children, as those with and without underlying conditions can be hospitalized or admitted to ICUs with COVID-19.

LISTEN | Dr. Moore Hepburn discusses kids and COVID-19 on The Morning Edition: 

9:01Risks kids faced during the first part of the pandemic

It’s the largest study so far of children hospitalized with Covid-19 in Canada. Now the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program is sharing the results of research it’s done on how kids fared during the first year of the pandemic. 9:01

Children can also develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) weeks after getting COVID-19, she noted, and the impact of the more contagious delta variant is still being studied.

With Pfizer seeking regulatory approval in the U.S. for a vaccine for children aged five to 11, Moore Hepburn says she’s encouraging families to get their children vaccinated when the time comes here in Canada.

“It remains an important disease in children, and children need to do their part in terms of both protecting themselves, their loved ones and their communities.”

Bennett says that after seeing what she went through, her unvaccinated friends with children are getting their shots to protect their kids. 

“They didn’t want to be in the situation that I was in.”

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